By Sandy Del Grande
You have breast cancer…the words no woman wants to hear. That was 16 years ago. The memories flood back to me in pictures, the dreaded look on the face of the mammography tech as she tells me I need to speak to the radiologist. The phone call from my doctor at 3 PM giving me the biopsy results. How can I pull myself together before I pick up my kids from school at 3:15? The surreal experience of sitting in a plastic surgeon’s office with a breast reconstruction brochure in my hand. Is this really happening?
I had been a committed Christian for 8 years when this trial entered my life. I can tell you; nothing matures your faith like a testing. I felt so close to the Lord during that time. It was amazing how all the unimportant distractions fell away so quickly, and my priorities came into focus.
I knew I needed to move quickly from fear to faith to get through this storm. I saturated my mind with the Word of God. The words of the bible came alive ministering to me comfort, peace, and hope. It was in my weakness and brokenness that God could shine through. I wondered how my faith would hold up. It turns out it had nothing to do with me and everything to do with God. It was about what He would do and how He would show himself faithful.
I opted for a double mastectomy because I wanted the course of treatment that gave me the best odds of not having it return. I did not want a life of constant screenings, mammograms, MRI’s, ultrasounds, and what I call…torture by testing. After the surgery, the outpouring of love from my church family was both humbling and healing to me. Mercifully, my church, Montclair Community Church, was a place I could be real, open, and transparent.
One of the key things that helped me get through this ordeal was that I would only allow myself a five- minute pity party each day. So after five minutes of feeling sorry for myself, I would take my eyes off myself and put them on God. Whatever we focus on and give our attention to gets bigger. Focus on your problems, they get bigger. Focus on God and He gets bigger. I chose to dwell on God’s past faithfulness to me. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”
I tried to maintain an attitude of gratitude even though I had many complications after the reconstruction. Despite setback after setback, I would find something to be thankful for in the midst of my situation. 1st Thessalonians 5:16 says, “Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
This wasn’t a journey I would have chosen to take, but it has made me a better, stronger person for having gone through it. The author C.S. Lewis says, “God speaks to us in our pleasures but shouts to us in our pain.” My life will never be the same again…but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I would not change things even if I could. I gained so much more than I lost.
Questions to consider:
I hope your summer days were full of memories and cherished moments. Yes, I know that won’t be true of everyone, so let me rephrase. As summer is behind us, I hope you saw God in a way that might have been new, true and awakening. Many years ago, as I raised my daughters (now young adults), we made new memories and I tried to make each outing an adventure. This summer, however, was quite different for our family. My own mother, JoAnn Kaloustian, went to heaven peacefully on August 24, 2021. As I mourn my mom and my own memories of her, I also see God as a Comforter like I never experienced before. God gave me a wonderful community of friends and family who have blessed me more than I could have imagined. Friend, we need a community to care, love and pray for one another. We need friendships.
As we enter into sweater weather, picked apples transformed into favorite recipes, soccer games and book clubs, I encourage you to attend one of Her Life Speaks’ Small Groups. It occurred to me that there are many who may have no idea what a small group is. So let me share with you the top reasons why you should join us:
Our Small Groups are meeting virtually, in person, nights, days, in NJ and PA. If you know a teen girl, you know how easily influenced she is in the world of social media today. We can’t change everyone else, but we can certainly encourage and equip teen girls who show up virtually at our small group on Tuesday nights. From my own experiences as a girl, I can’t say enough how important it is for girls to gather in their own space to let their hair down and to be themselves with no worry of judgment. Most importantly, your teen will realize that she is not alone in her walk with God and as she navigates her own journey.
My community is everything to me.
“... there should be equal concern for each other. If one woman suffers, we all suffer, if she is honored, we all rejoice with her. You are one. You each have a part to offer.”
Paraphrased 1 Corinthians 12:25-27
I hope you’ll join us.
Find a Small Group that works for you: Small Groups - HER LIFE SPEAKS
See you there.
I grew up in a home where wearing sweatshirts and leggings to school was not allowed. On multiple occasions before walking out the door I would be sent back upstairs to change into something that covered my toosh. I remember putting up a fight and stomping my feet all the way up to make a point. Sometimes I would even hide a change of clothes in my bag and get dressed in the school bathroom.
Years later when I entered college I realized I could be in complete control of what I put on my body. I quickly learned that crop tops and bralettes were the going out uniform, so I had to run over to the nearest Urban Outfitters to make some tweaks to my wardrobe. Finally, I felt like I was fitting into the culture I always desired to be part of, or at least I thought I did.
After a few semesters, I realized I was never fully comfortable dressing in a way that exposed so much of myself. I felt embarrassed when I would see photos posted on Facebook, constantly untagging myself so my family couldn’t see me. The secrecy started to make me question if it was really worth it?
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
This scripture was always somewhere in the back of my mind, but God gave me a new way of embodying it through my wardrobe experience. Looking back, I believe God was putting me through a test. Dressing to conform to the world was a temptation for me. When I dressed for the world, it opened my eyes to a lot of desirable things; “likes” on social media, attention from boys, approval from friends, just to name a few. But, these things didn’t fill me up the way God did and those “desirable” things left me feeling like the world wanted a piece of me that I wasn’t ready to give over.
“She is clothed in strength and dignity, and laughs without fear of the future” Proverbs 31:25.
Through this ten year journey, I have chosen to glorify God with my body. Through Him, I know I am enough when I choose to dress modestly. It’s something I still struggle with as a young adult, but I’m now more equipped to take on this challenge knowing this is a way for me to honor God. So, when I get dressed for an event, work or even the gym, I ask myself, “who am I dressing for?” and if my answer is “other’s approval and attention”, I get back right to my closet and start over!
What challenge are you facing from society? How can you turn to God for strength to overcome the desire for acceptance and the peer pressures from the ways of the world?
Best Summer Looks
You can still look cute while dressing modestly! There are so many reasons to get dressed up for the summer, even if it's just in a casual setting. Don’t let those summer dresses go to waste in your closet. Here are some of my favorite looks for different occasions.
Summer BBQ: Maxi dresses
Night Out: Baby-doll dresses, square neck top & high waisted shorts, denim
Pool Party: Crochet details, high waisted skirts, tie dye
Lounging/ Errands: Easy jumpsuits and matching sets
Her Life Speaks
I was shocked when a woman once said to me, “I never pray for myself because it’s selfish”. Imagine never praying for yourself. Ever. Wow, what a miss. When I ask women, “How can I pray for you, or are there any prayer requests?” they will usually give me prayer requests for a neighbor, friend, sister, daughter or even their pet, (which are all fine btw). We are nurturers, aren’t we? Often putting others before yourself. I’d like to pitch the idea that praying for ourselves is self-care.
My son-in-love recently asked me who my favorite unassuming character in the Bible
was and I replied, “Jabez”. Jabez is only mentioned 3 times in the Bible; once as a town
and the other as a person. In 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 Jabez prays for himself: “Jabez
prayed to God, “Oh that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with
me in all that I do and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted him his
request.” Jabez knew he needed God. He needed God’s protection, blessing and his
Jabez prayed for himself and God granted his requests. All three of them!
I wonder what it is that holds us back from praying for ourselves. For this woman it was
selfishness. Could it be because we don’t think of it as self-care? Or necessary? Or
unworthiness? Could we believe the lie that our sin is too big and ugly that we can’t ask
God for anything for ourselves? I don’t find any of these reasons in the Bible. I do
however, know that the Villain will do everything in his power to separate us from God,
especially in prayer.
God invites us into prayer with him, Matthew 6:33. We can ask him for anything for
ourselves; love, protection, provision, healing, comfort, peace, a job, child, husband, a
car, direction, joy... anything. We take care of “us” when we pray for ourselves. Praying
for ourselves is empowering because we are taking matters into our own hands by
bringing it to the Decision Maker, himself. Prayer for ourselves changes things. It makes
us better, the best we can be when it’s with God.
Questions to contemplate:
Founder of Her Life Speaks
Growing up I was independent, inventive, and competitive. These may sound like equipping traits to have and, in my case, they were necessary to be in the game and show face. I grew a “hard shell” on the outside stemming from what was on the inside; hurt, shame, abuse, abandonment and isolation. I didn’t want anyone or need anyone, a lie I believed. So my “I’m okay” attitude morphed into my pride of autonomy.
I was disconnected and didn’t make myself vulnerable to ask for what I wanted or
needed. I endured the pain of emptiness and unworthiness by not having solutions,
resources, tools or a mentor. My pride got in the way of reaching out for help, wise
counsel, and God.
It takes a lot of work to wear a hard shell camouflaged as a cry for help.
As we rounded the corner of the one year anniversary in a pandemic and legitimate
isolation, I’ve spent a lot of time reading my Bible. I’m thankful for this time as God
showed me many Truths that suddenly saturated my soul and heart like never before
and encouraged me in my journey of healing and restoration from lies I believed.
These truths are:
I’ve known these truths well but it’s been in this season that strongholds of disbelief are
breaking. When I let go of my pride and choose to believe and not default to my old way
of thinking, I feel the Holy Spirit moving. There’s a gentle easy feeling. A comfort that
just lets me default to God. And believe Him.
Questions for contemplation:
Her Life Speaks is all about Her testimony, Her life, and who God is in Her story. Here we write our stories in hopes of helping other women find their relationship with Jesus Christ.